The general view that Paul Pogba is a better, happier and more popular player for his national team than he is for Manchester United has been challenged in an interesting and revealing new article.
The Athletic this morning claims that in some senses Pogba is a mystery figure in France and that he has suffered much of the same criticism when playing for les Bleus as he has for the Red Devils.
The outlet says that ‘several people inside the French football industry  wonder whether signing Pogba would mean more for PSG from a marketing perspective than necessarily being the deal to turn Mauricio Pochettino’s side into Champions League winners,’ and that ‘PSG’s concern is that they could be used by [Pogba’s agent, Mino] Raiola to get a bigger contract out of United for his client.’
Despite the fact that the 28-year-old was widely considered to be one of the best players of Euro 2020, he was not immune from criticism in his home country.
‘Many people in France are still sore, to say the least, about France’s exit from Euro 2020 and the stories that have subsequently emerged about dressing-room divisions and politics,’ The Athletic says.
Those divisions reportedly included a high profile argument between Pogba’s family and Adrien Rabiot’s mother, Veronique.
‘Pogba was acclaimed as “le footballeur total” in L’Equipe after France beat Germany in their opening group assignment,’ the report continues.
‘Four days later, France drew 1-1 with Hungary and the write-ups were not so kind. “Where did the hero from Munich go?” the same newspaper asked. “Simple passes into touch, ragged control, considerable waste (20 misplaced passes). The midfielder, disorientated technically, injected no speed into the game.” Verdict: three out of ten.
Pogba was then praised for his performance against Portugal, with one reporter describing him as “the brains, the eyes, the heart, the legs, the spark and the barrel of gunpowder, all at once, in this France team”.
But despite a great goal in France’s loss to Switzerland in the Round of 16, the Atheltic says ‘It hasn’t gone unnoticed that Pogba lost the ball before Switzerland scored their last-minute equaliser. When France were struggling badly in the opening half, it was startling to see Pogba’s lack of influence.’
One accusation levelled at the Frenchman by United fans is that he is a fair weather player – great in a winning side, but not so good when things are not going well. The same accusation, it seems, has been made at the national level.
‘When everything is wonderful, he plays wonderfully. He thinks he’s a leader, he’s absolutely convinced of it. But when the team is not so good, Pogba is not so good either,’ a leading French commentator is quoted as saying.
‘He disappears. We saw it against Switzerland — it’s largely because of him that France ended up losing that game.”’
There is also another side to the story of the much-hailed motivational speeches that Pogba has been seen to give to his teammates, such as in the World Cup final against Argentina in 2018.
A ‘close-up observer’ of the French camp is quoted in the article as saying ‘“We saw the best bits of that speech from the World Cup [but] some of his other speeches weren’t quite as inspirational.
‘”One story is that Hugo Lloris had to interrupt him and tell him to ‘stop speaking’ because what he was saying was so ridiculous. Sometimes it is just nonsense.”’
There is a definite sense that Pogba is elusively charismatic, inconsistently effective and intermittently inspiring or disruptive for both club and country.
The main conclusion of The Athletic’s analysis is that ‘cometh the hour, cometh the man’ is sometimes the opposite of the Pogba effect.
‘Pogba’s season for United had ended with the player asking to be substituted, apparently because he was troubled by cramp, four minutes from the end of extra time in the Europa League final,’ the article notes.
‘Pogba’s departure made him a notable absentee from the penalty shoot-out that ended with Villarreal winning the trophy.
‘Behind the scenes, there were murmurings about whether Pogba, who would have been one of United’s penalty-takers, could have tried harder to stay on.’